I’d never used social media until I started my blog. That world had passed me by. I started using it as a medium for providing knowledge and positivity for living with dementia. Since starting 7 weeks ago (is it really only 7 weeks?!) I’ve become aware of both the positive and negative aspects depending on the way it’s used.
I recently watched the ‘Tonight’ programme on social media use by teenagers and the effect it was having on their mental health. It gave me a different perspective. For those on the programme it appeared to be used as a confidence booster and way of gaining ‘online friends’. Naively or not, it had never occurred to me that this was a possible use for the medium.
It’s fabulous that it makes youngsters feel good about themselves but I hope the imbalance of negativity doesn’t affect their opinion of themselves for the future. One girl felt sad about not getting many ‘likes’ when she posted a picture of herself compared to the posting of a picture of herself and the cameraman, which gained far more ‘likes’. She saw this as a downer as her own image on her own was less popular.
Another said ‘I wouldn’t have as many friends if I wasn’t online’. I can equate to that. I’ve made many on line acquaintances who have a shared passion for dementia – I see that as a positive. I promote positivity but acknowledge I have bad days. My life is far from perfect but I’m content with my life. The stats created and longed for by the teenagers on that programme seemed to lead to serious self esteem issues if their ‘targets’ didn’t match those of their contemporaries. That seemed very sad.
I’ve felt the adrenalin rush at having lots of views on my blog but I can now see, that if I was of a certain character type or age, I may have been demoralised when those figures when back to normal. All the youngsters on this programme seemed driven by the number of online friends and the number of likes as a view of assessing others ‘approval’ of themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, social media is a wonderful tool for cascading information across the world to people you may never have reached without it and a wonderful tool for keeping it touch with family and friends, yet I have this niggling doubt and concern over its use. Do we teach the younger generation (and older possibly) how to use social media? Do we teach them the advantages but also the negative aspects and pitfalls to avoid? Maybe this already happens in schools and I’m so new to this form of media that I’m just an ‘oldie’ out of touch with the current fads. Watching them, there seemed to be an imbalance of time spent in the virtual world compared to reality.
Having watched this program, I just came away thinking that, because this is a time in their life when they need so much reassurance of them as them, that social media can turn into a cruel medium that leads to low self esteem and mental health issues. If it encourages sociability and a medium for sharing knowledge, brilliant; if it turns into a tool which creates negative self image and low self esteem, we’re storing up trouble for the future. I’m glad I was born into a generation where social media wasn’t the norm as I can choose to opt in or opt out – I’m not sure our pressured teenagers have that same choice.